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Busy Fools and Discourses

A common character trait of many businesspeople, especially entrepreneurs, must be kept in check, says Mr. Loadlink.

I was jet lagged, my inbox was exploding, and I couldn’t remember the last time I went horse racing. For a moment, I wasn’t even sure what day of the week it was.

Now, I remember that time well; I made a note of it just to make sure I don’t go back. It’s not important when it was—only my close friends and family even know about it (until now!)—nor does it matter what label I put on my state of mind (burn-out could be one) but it was crucial that I learnt from it.

I’m very proud of my work ethic but I let it get the better of me. I’d convinced myself that one more hour with my nose millimetres from the grindstone was always worth it. I saw no harm in waking up to a notepad full of ideas and scrawled diagrams on my bedside table—the product of sleepless nights wondering how to gain 1% more productivity here or 2% more margin there. I thought, isn’t it great that I can be creative when everyone else is asleep? I cursed the hours when my body finally succumbed and I completely shut down; exhausted, I sunk into the pillow before I’d even thought about trying to get some sleep.

Sadly, many readers of this blog can probably relate to this. After all, what makes us successful entrepreneurs is a passion for what we do. And that’s the hardest thing to rein in. I never cursed any sleepless night, or 80-hour week (many were probably more) because I loved every minute of them. The buzz of working on an overnight flight before landing and going straight into the office was like a drug. Cramming as many trade shows as possible into a spring or autumn season kept adrenaline whizzing through my body at such a rate that I sometimes had to remind myself to eat.

That was ok, though, because there was always someone to have a networking dinner with so we could talk about work in between mouthfuls.

In hindsight, it’s clear how clouded my senses had become. I justified to myself missing barbecues with friends and family; and saw the layers of dust building up on my golf clubs as a sign of my success. I remember thinking back to the days when my company was in its infancy and I had time to swing a club or put on a snappy suit and spend a few hours at Goodwood, which is not only my local racecourse but also one of the most picturesque in the world. That entire caper was for those with time on their hands or a lack of drive. I couldn’t keep count of my shots on a course or place bets at a track and answer phone calls or brainstorm at the same time. So I didn’t do it.

Stress out

Any medical professional will tell you that enduring a state of stress over a long period of time is a harmful thing. It puts strain on all the organs and bodily functions that we need to take care of the most. The side effects—loss of appetite, sleepless nights, low immune system, low energy, headaches—are there for an individual to feel and their friends and family to see, but they’re somehow suppressed or given a different label. It’s the quality of air in aeroplanes that makes one feel drowsy, I’ve heard it said. Or, no wonder that high-flying business owner has constant headaches, performing such wizardry on spreadsheets until the small hours.

When entrepreneurs get together it creates an intoxicating, yet dangerous, environment. See a group of over-worked, highly stressed professionals in a huddle, laughing, and it’s usually because one of them has mentioned a television programme or favourite pastime. They might even have had the audacity to mention the upcoming weekend. Champagne is spat from their ulcer-ridden gobs and they double over their big guts. One scoffs: what chance have I got to watch TV?; another boasts: weekend, what’s that?; I remember when my handicap was down to seven—now I couldn’t even hit it off the tee, roars the most pale-looking of them all.

If none of this incentivises a reader to slow down, get this: working so many hours actually makes a person perform worse. Chances are, a solid 50-hour week and a weekend off with the family, perhaps with a gentle coaxing of ducks into a row on a Sunday evening, will yield greater productivity and efficiency than an 80-hour week where one has barely spared time to ask how a loved one’s day at school or work went. Think about it: how could I have been as dynamic and engaging at a trade show on the morning after an all-nighter at the laptop, than when I’d had a relaxing meal, seven hours of sleep, and a healthy breakfast? The mind is a powerful thing and it can seemingly convince a person, especially an entrepreneur, of anything.

Any medical professional will tell you that enduring a state of stress over a long period of time is a dangerous thing.

Any medical professional will tell you that enduring a state of stress over a long period of time is a dangerous thing.

Here are my top four tips for anyone getting sucked into the world of busy fools:

  1. Get active

Schedule activities away from work and make them business-free zones. Whether it’s fishing, golf, horse racing, or billiards (fresh air activities are better), put plenty of it in the diary and make them as important as quarterly board meetings. Further, when the rod is cast, the ball is thwacked onto a fairway, the bet is place, or the black is potted, don’t let the workplace detract from the moment. Turn off one’s mobile phone and don’t put anything work-related in the diary immediately afterwards that might create a distraction or tempt a person to rush away from the fun. It’s amazing how mind, body, and soul can benefit.

Schedule activities away from work.

Schedule activities away from work.

  1. Take long holidays

It’s remarkable how many successful people, with plenty of money, don’t take holidays. I’ve heard (and made) all the excuses in the book: I’ve got too much on to leave the office; I’d only spend the whole time in the room working; what if I couldn’t get reliable Wi-Fi?; I’d have too much to catch up on when I got back; the company would lose momentum without its leader; what example does it set if I sit on a beach for two weeks?; I’m happier at work than on a sun-bed or sight-seeing so what’s the point?

The most laughable of all of these is the necessity for a business leader to be at their company’s beckon call 24/7. Of course, it would be unwise to take a three-month tour of the Far East just days after registering a UK-focussed business at Companies House, but there’s something wrong with an established, successful firm if the wheels come off when the boss takes some time off. (I’ll come back to this point.)

  1. Prioritise relationships

There’s no point reflecting on a great career, prematurely bound to a rocking chair, if it has come at the cost of every hobby, friend, and family member a person had. It’s no badge of honour or achievement to say, “I’m a great businessman, that’s why I haven’t got any friends or family.” Make time for immediate and distant family; sign-up to memberships that have nothing to do with business; be on a WhatsApp group with people who don’t even know what you do for a living; have a circle of friends that ask how you are but not how work is going. At times of great need, these are the people who will step in, not the customers or suppliers that get the majority of an entrepreneur’s time. Get to the office on a Monday morning having forgotten about what it looks like for 60 hours.

  1. Take email off your phone

This has proven to be a game-changer for me. Like a lot of business leaders, indeed, anyone in most jobs these days, I get bombarded by emails that range from important messages from by business partner to spam about money laundering schemes. I got into a mentality that I was being judged by the time it took me to respond, forward, delete, or act upon messages. If it was 2:05am and a customer had asked a question, they’d have the answer by 2:10am. Every time I felt my phone vibrate, I’d check the message and deal with it. Now I have to log into my laptop to access messages, which is inconvenient and takes time. Great! It means I only address them when I’m settled at a desk with a cup of tea—not when I stir in the middle of the night.

Taking email off my smart phone has drastically reduced stress levels.

Taking email off my smart phone has drastically reduced stress levels.

I wholeheartedly embrace the benefits of technology and I love my smart devices, but being a slave to an inbox is foolish. When I started my career as a rep, I used to carry a bag of 2p coins with me so I could stop and use a payphone by the roadside if I was running early or late for an appointment. Businesses back then still turned over millions of pounds. Whilst our companies are reliant upon technology and the efficiencies it creates, nothing is going to happen if an email doesn’t get replied to when one is at an airport or taking a taxi to a hotel.

As Steve Torres, CEO at Group Four Transducers Inc., told me once near his home in Boston, Massachusetts, it’s important to take time to smell the roses.

Good luck, Jessi; welcome, Kizzie

I alluded to the importance of systemising a business and building a strong team earlier in the piece. I don’t want to lose the hands-on approach that’s served me so well over the years, but much of being able to step away and implement any of the four tips outlined above depends on an entrepreneur’s ability to delegate and entrust a team.

We were very sorry to see Jessi Boskovic leave us recently; she had been with SP since school and blossomed into a consummate professional. However, we wish her well with a new challenge and remain proud that she will use the experience gained with us to no doubt be a huge success elsewhere. Jessie has been replaced by Kizzie Cordwell, inside sales, and the team is excited about working with her in the immediate and long-term future.

We had 18 applicants for the job and Kizzie was the outstanding candidate. I talk (and blog) a lot about the DNA we look for in prospective employees and we’re confident we’ve chosen wisely in our latest recruit.

Thank you for reading and use the hashtag #loadcell on social media.

Mr. Loadlink

It is important for business leaders to allow members of staff to represent the company on the front line. Dave Mullard, business development manager; and Mike Neal, product sales engineer, did a great job at the recent Vertikal Days, I hear.

It is important for business leaders to allow members of staff to represent the company on the front line. Dave Mullard, business development manager; and Mike Neal, product sales engineer, did a great job at the recent Vertikal Days, I hear.

Getting LinkedIn…

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Many people still don’t harness the power of social media platforms like LinkedIn, says Mr. Loadlink.

Ever woken up with a sinking feeling as the events of the previous night (some of them, at least) come flooding back? In truth, my partying days were over a long time ago and I’m grateful that my moral compass remained pointing north most of the time anyway. Further, in my heyday we didn’t have smart phones or social media tracking our every move, giving us opportunities to post our thoughts, and our friends or foes the ability to capture our shortcomings in photos or videos and upload them where the world (and our parents!) could see. Smart phones must bring a whole new dynamic to the heady years of young adulthood.

It’s certainly a changing world, one where we have to deal with trolls (a confrontational or quarrelsome internet user) and catfish (a person who pretends to be someone else online for ill-gotten gain). Our data is no longer kept safe at home or reserved for paper envelopes from the bank marked ‘private’. We’ve all read about Cambridge Analytica gaining access to information on up to 87 million Facebook users, while data leaks are commonplace where a password of no more than a few letters guards what was once kept in a safety deposit box in a safe, down a long staircase, behind a secret door.


A troll is a confrontational or quarrelsome internet user that negatively reacts to a person’s content or targets them with varying degrees of abuse

But—and it’s a big BUT—we too readily look at the negatives of social media. Come on, did you really used to board public transport and chat to the person next to you? No. We clambered onto the carriages with the same disregard for fellow passengers as we do today and then covered our faces with a broadsheet newspaper. We would tut if someone sneezed and roll our eyes when a dog owner asked for room for their twin Great Danes.

I don’t buy into the scathing criticism youngsters get for “always being on their phones”, nor do I give credence to the suggestion that the upcoming generation are unlucky that they’ll never get a chance to play outside with sticks and pushbikes.

Brand you

There is a lot more incredibly positive behaviour and interaction on social platforms than there is bad. And professionally we have opportunities to upscale our businesses and develop our careers that we’ve never had before. The biggest game-changer, and the crux of this blog, is the rise technology has given to the personal brand. People now have greater control of their image, reputation, and destiny than ever before. There are cynics, of course, who say there’s now more scope for embellishment, but not every curriculum vitae (CV) or résumé printed on paper was 100% accurate. Again I stress that we haven’t devolved; we’re not now a lying race of con artists.

Take professional networking site LinkedIn, for example. There, people can constantly update a profile and connect with whoever they want. Someone even in the early months of employment can showcase their assets, skills, interests, and ambitions, whilst making connections with peers, competitors, and prospective future employers. There’s no need to smuggle paper business cards out of the office to make a private contacts book, or secretly submit a CV to a recruitment agent. We’re now proud owners and ambassadors of our own brand; we control who is attracted to it and we can monetise our abilities more efficiently than ever before—if we get it right.

This is a culture everyone, including employers, should embrace, not fear. I’m passionate about my staff growing their personal brands, particularly on LinkedIn; so much so that I even offered them participation in a one-day course about the platform a week or so ago that I had experienced myself earlier in the year. Our digital profile pictures, bios, posts, likes, comments, and more say so much about us and can yield such results that I felt it was important to back up use of the site with as much intelligence as possible.

I won’t plagiarise specifics but I wanted to share some of the general points garnered in the hope it, first, encourages readers to get more actively involved in LinkedIn and, second, that they do so with the greatest possible impact.

We discussed the use of emojis during the course; I have no problem with adding relevant, fun graphics to my LinkedIn posts

We discussed the use of emojis during the course; I have no problem with adding relevant, fun graphics to my LinkedIn posts

Sell later

The biggest piece of advice I can give anyone looking to use the platform to grow their brand and / or generate revenue, is to engage, collaborate, and share long before they try to push themselves and / or their product onto a contact. The most powerful salesperson in an industry is he or she that is renowned as an expert in that sector. Thought leadership status isn’t gained overnight, however, and can never be acquired without authentically demonstrating a commitment to the positive change of a marketplace.

“Here I am. Buy this,” won’t work. Once a good reputation has been earned, then there’s no harm in presenting a solution to a problem. The recipient will recognise it as a sales pitch but will likely welcome it.

It’s a slow burner, but I’ll incentivise you: LinkedIn offers users access to 500 million people. Each user has an average of 400 connections so every connection one makes opens up ‘second’ connections to the tune of the same number. The most effective way of growing connections is to engage with a target audience. The site makes it easy to locate people by industry, while a deeper drill can identify professionals with a certain job title. Researching what they’re talking about or having sleepless nights over gives a potential contact a magic formula; they can become a problem solver. A request for connection with a polite note gets the ball rolling.

LinkedIn allows users to network with like-minded individuals across the world

LinkedIn allows users to network with like-minded individuals across the world

The leaders of the course Straightpoint (SP) employees took charted the route from ‘known’ to ‘liked’ to ‘trusted’. One can’t leap from one to the other without taking time to post relevant content, interact with other people’s posts, and communicate as an individual. That last point is important because people, as we know, buy from people. LinkedIn is a place where professionals go to hang out with like-minded folks. It’s like the canteen in a workplace or the break room on a jobsite; one has to be friendly, likeable, and add value to the community to be accepted then welcomed back.

An expert once told me that just when a person thinks they’ve got their feet sufficiently under the table to start discussing a sale, that’s when they shouldn’t. “Give, give, give, give some more, then ask,” he said.

Face it

There are seven key elements to a LinkedIn profile: photograph, professional headline, summary, experience, recommendations, skills and endorsements, and contact information. I want to highlight two for further exploration: a person’s photograph and their summary. They were focal points of the aforementioned course content and I see glaring mistakes made in relation to both when I’m on the site—and I’m on there daily for varying periods of time so I feel equipped to judge.

In fact, I’m in the top 1% in both my industry and network social selling indexes (SSI). I tell you not to brag but to point out what can be achieved through a bona fide commitment to an industry and a dedicated, long-term strategy.

The simple criterion for a profile picture is a clear image of a person’s face, as they would look in a business situation. A sun lounger shot is a bad idea (unless one is in the sun-bed trade!) as is one of someone standing outside a tavern in a Hawaiian shirt. A clear, sensible head and shoulders photo is much more effective. It doesn’t have to be boring or neutral like a passport picture, but it must be akin to the professional as they would walk through a boardroom door or report for an interview. It’s a mistake to use a very dated or flattering image because people will be disappointed by the real-life version and, moreover, it might create doubt over an individual’s integrity.

What does your profile picture say about you

What does your profile picture say about you

If they’ve been prepared to mislead on their photo, where else has the truth been given scope?

When writing a LinkedIn summary, stay away from jargon. Nobody really wants to meet a motivated, creative, enthusiastic, passionate, successful, driven, experienced man or woman. Assume visitors to a page or potential connections know that about a person already. Think about how you would speak to someone you met at a conference and write in the same tone. If you’re funny, crack a joke. Refer to yourself in the first person and be interesting. If you shake someone’s hand during lunch at a seminar, you’re unlikely to say, “This is Ivor Bighead and he is a motivated, talented, strategic, all-round good guy with a proven track record,” are you? “Hello, I’m Ivor, I’m hear to learn about ABC and I’m also looking forward to tonight’s networking party,” would work a great deal better. It’s the same on LinkedIn.

Like it

As with most social platforms, the fulcrum for most activity on LinkedIn is the ‘Like’ button. The easiest way to acknowledge a person’s post is to click it so they get a notification. The platform’s algorithms also detect the engagement and filter content accordingly. A dozen likes doesn’t mean 12 people have read something, however. The research that was alluded to in our session stated that users typically get one like for every approx. 140 post views. If a post gets 11 or more likes in the first hour, it will be categorised as ‘popular’ by the algorithms and be made visible to a lot more people, dramatically increasing the chances of it going viral. It’s another reason why it’s important to be relevant, interesting, and non-commercial. Can you see a post like, “Buy my amazing shackles,” going viral as people rush to interact and snap up the stock? No, thought not.

Post content your target audience will like

Post content your target audience will like

LinkedIn is just one social media platform. SP is active on many others, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. There isn’t time to detail our strategies for each in this blog but it’s important to note that tailored content for each vehicle is crucial. There are apps that allow users to post to multiple platforms at the same time but I don’t believe engagement levels are as high as when a Twitter post is targeted for a “look at that news” hungry audience or an Instagram post is photogenic and more laden with hashtags.

Search #loadcell for SP content.

Good social media posts include a call to action, as do most blogs. So call me! I’d be happy to discuss further the matters raised in this article and welcome all feedback.

Mr. Loadlink